The Engine Group is looking to boost its integrated offering by acquiring a media planning and buying agency.
Sources say that the group's chief executive, Peter Scott, is in talks with at least one media agency about an acquisition, which would complete the Engine line-up: the group already includes PR, direct, sponsorship and digital alongside its WCRS ad agency.
The problem for any group looking to make a media acquisition is that the number of potential purchases in this market is limited. Sources suggest Booth Locket Makin would be the most attractive partner.
BLM is the second-biggest independent media buying agency in terms of billings, and has been in rude health recently. It also has strong digital planning and buying credentials through its Quantum off-shoot, as well as having a creative offering through Flint. Other potential partners could include the Leeds-based Brilliant Media and John Ayling & Associates.
A media acquisition would fill a gap in Engine Group's portfolio following the underwhelming performance of its previous media experiment, Element. The division, a joint venture between Engine and Naked Communications, was launched in December 2004, but it has been wound down for the time being.
The move to acquire a media independent would also make sense because it would provide greater scale and a consistent revenue stream for Engine ahead of any attempt to float or sell the business.
M&C Saatchi adopted a similar model by taking a stake in Walker Media, a business, which according to M&C's last interim results, was the most significant driver of its UK revenue growth.
- Comment, page 40.